Joe Marler is set be available for England’s second autumn international against Australia, with the decision to spread his three-week ban over a four-week period expected to be reversed.
Prop Marler was suspended for striking on Wednesday, but a European Professional Club Rugby disciplinary committee judged that because of the player’s “likely playing commitments” the ban would not include Harlequins’ Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Saracens on 5 November.
Marler was therefore ruled out of matches against Argentina and Australia and not selected in head coach Eddie Jones’ squad.
But it is understood Harlequins have successfully queried the verdict with the European Cup authorities.
It means Marler will be free to face the Wallabies on 18 November, if selected.
The original decision not to include the Anglo-Welsh game as part of Marler’s ban was met with confusion, especially given how the opposite applied to Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes.
Hughes’ two week ban for a dangerous tackle included the weekend of 4-5 November, and therefore he is available for all three of England’s autumn Tests.
England head coach Jones confirmed on Thursday he has the flexibility to draft players into his squad at any point throughout the campaign.
Jones’ side play Argentina on 11 November, Australia on 18 November and Samoa on 25 November.
Rugby union bans are done in weeks because – in effect – the number of weeks are the same as the number of games. But authorities are keen for the matches a player is banned for to be meaningful.
This issue came up in the summer when New Zealand Rugby argued successfully – and controversially – that a glorified trial match counted as part of a ban for All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams.
In this case, the panel was correct that Marler was always highly unlikely to feature in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, but they have also made a presumption about his international and club commitments – and then showed no consistency by doing the exact opposite for Nathan Hughes.
Therefore it’s little surprise if this decision is reversed, as expected, and Marler is free to play a week earlier than previously.